DRDGOLD to weigh tailings JV with Copper 360

DRDGOLD is to run the rule over copper tailings resources…

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DRDGOLD is to run the rule over copper tailings resources in South Africa’s Northern Cape  in a development that finally signals its intention to act on long-held organic growth ambitions.

The tailings are owned by Copper 360 which said in an announcement on Wednesday the tailings may contain 50 to 60 million tons of dump material with grades of between 0.18% and 1.5% copper, equal to 450,000 tons of copper metal in situ.

“Our expertise and focus is not tailings treatment although we recognise the potential of the copper dumps,” said Jan Nelson, CEO of Copper 360.

“It is therefore logical that we have approached the world leader in dump retreatment to see if a potential partnership could be negotiated to potentially bring these assets to account if the due diligence is viable.”

If the due diligence proves economic DRDGOLD, through its Far West Gold Recoveries subsidiary, will acquire a 50% stake in the dumps and become the operator. The dumps include the O’Okiep, Carolusberg, Lower and Upper NamaCopper copper tailings dams. DRDGold has a year to complete the due diligence.

Niel Pretorius, CEO of DRDGold said the group had decided to look wider than gold for growth. But he stressed the due diligence was a first, tentative step. “The best way to describe this is that, in the tailings business, it is exploration. If it is attractive we will put it to the board and perhaps take it to the next level,” Pretorius said.

Copper was a logical step for a gold producer as articulated by much larger gold companies such as Barrick Gold, said Pretorius. “It’s relatively small and we are only dipping our toes into the shallow water before committing. But it is also an opportunity to establish grounds for a second business.”

DRDGOLD is 50.1% owned by Sibanye-Stillwater which has suggested in the past that the DRDGOLD could be a vehicle for gold sector consolidation in the tailings business both in South Africa and internationally.

In 2023, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said DRDGOLD was due a rebrand in an allusion to the firm’s ambitions. But opportunities have been stymied.

Legal complexities regarding ownership by joint venture parties have prevented DRDGold from mining platinum group metal tailings owned by Sibanye-Stillwater while uranium resources west of Johannesburg may be sold in terms of plans laid out by Sibanye-Stillwater earlier in March.

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